Virus Outbreak Louisiana

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards holds up his own mask, taken off while he was speaking, to remind Louisiana residents that a highly effective thing within their power to do to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to simply wear a mask, Tuesday, July 28, 2020, at a press conference update on the state's COVID-19 situation at the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness in Baton Rouge, La. 

In his fight to get Louisianans vaccinated, Gov. John Bel Edwards has found a valuable tool in the most unlikely of places: TikTok.

Over the summer, the governor began posting TikTok videos promoting the COVID-19 vaccine. According to Grace Bordelon, a press assistant to Gov. Edwards and one of the masterminds behind the TikTok account, it was actually the governor’s idea to start making TikToks.

“He met a Tiktok executive at an event and that person told him this is an app that is tailored for young people. It's a really good way to engage young people. And the governor actually brought that back to us,” Bordelon said.

In his most recent video, Edwards tapped into the “Bones Day” trend, a viral meme that has taken the country by storm. The origin of the trend is a daily video from TikTok user Jonathan Graziano, who attempts to pick up his sleeping pug, Noodle. If Noodle stays standing up, it’s a bones day, which means it’s going to be a good day. If Noodle flops down, it’s a no bones day, which means it’s going to be a bad day. Graziano’s videos get millions of views every day and he and Noodle have been featured in national media outlets.

“Alright Louisiana, today is a bones day,” the governor announced on his Oct. 20 TikTok, “and while every day is a great day to get your vaccination, today is an extraordinarily good day.”

"Alright Louisiana, today is a bones day," Gov. Edwards (@louisianagov on TikTok) encourages people to get vaccinated 

The video has already garnered over 130 thousand views, making it the third most-viewed video on the account, after two other meme videos.

While Bordelon said the governor was a little confused by the trend at first, he was an enthusiastic participant in the video.

“He gave it his all” Bordelon said. “I would say the governor is a really good sport.”

Louisiana has one of the lowest vaccination rates of any US state. According to the New York Times vaccination tracker, only 53% of Louisiana residents have received at least one shot. Only 47.2% of the population is fully vaccinated. Louisiana also has an especially low youth vaccination rate, with 39% of those aged 12-17 receiving at least one shot.

Bordelon said that TikTok is an important part of the communication toolbox in reaching young people, who may not be aware of what the governor posts on more traditional social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

”The nature of TikTok is like, you don't have to be following the person or doesn't even have to be something you think you align with, but it can pop up on your screen,” Bordelon said. ”It offers an opportunity to engage young people where they otherwise wouldn't be.”

"I receive peace of mind knowing Louisianans are protected from COVID," Gov. Edwards (@louisianagov on TikTok) encourages people to get vaccinated. 

Marketing sophomore Alexandria Ferguson thinks that Edwards has the right idea.

"I think it's a good way to put it on a relatable basis," Ferguson said.

Ferguson also said it might have convinced her if she wasn't already vaccinated.

"I think it would open my eyes up and I probably would look into it more," Ferguson said.

Biology freshman Isabella Treuding emphasized the importance of memes in impacting young adults. 

"It is the most widely spread media source for our generation, it catches on so quickly," Treuding said.

Most of Edward’s TikTok videos are about vaccination, with just one video posted to commemorate the adjourning of the 2021 regular legislative session. The success of the vaccination videos has made the communications team consider expanding their use of TikTok.

“We're kind of realizing that we could actually tap into it for other projects,” Bordelon said. “There aren't a lot of other politicians on TikTok. A lot of them do use it for other stuff besides just vaccinations. They use it to promote different projects that they're working on so that's definitely something we'll be able to explore in the future.”

Bordelon is encouraged by the response the TikToks have recieved.

“I think our entire team's favorite comments on our videos are the ones that are like, ‘Oh, I'm getting my shot this week.’ It's nice to see people being enthusiastic. So, you know, maybe it doesn't convince tons of people,” Bordelon said. “But, you know, just one makes a difference.”

Edward’s communication team said that they’re charged with taking the information to where the people are.

“The Governor has charged all of us with finding creative ways to spread the word about the COVID-19 vaccine, which includes reaching out to younger people," the communications team said. "As our office, the Louisiana Department of Health and the Bring Back Louisiana campaign work to get more people vaccinated, we’ve got to take good information to where the people are, including churches, festivals, schools and, yes, even social media. The Governor’s been a good sport about our TikTok ideas and we’re going to keep working until even more people in Louisiana get the shot!”

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